By Maria Sylvester
Regrets — oh, how they can haunt us. They can torture us too, draining our energy and spirits, especially if excessively dwelled upon. Regrets are no fun to tangle with, yet so often they end up tying us in knots.
Pestering and festering regrets come in several varieties. A regret can surface as you ponder an action taken, or ponder an action not taken. If you take an action that results in a nasty outcome, you can end up blaming yourself, or feel a sense of deep sadness reflecting on what might have been. Sometimes we wish we could undo a choice made, and have a makeover or redo.
On the other hand, sometimes regrets come in the form of the road not taken, or the road ignored, and we are left to ponder the “what-ifs.” Sorrow and despair can easily follow. Bottom line, though, is that regrets of any type, if obsessed or ruminated over, can cause acute stress. Our peace of mind suffers and the emotional pain we feel takes its to toll on our bodies, spirits, and overall health.
So what are alternative, more beneficial ways to navigate feelings of regret? First and foremost, truth be told, there are always valuable lessons to be learned from negative consequences, failures, or blunders. These lessons become golden opportunities especially if you can minimize, or better yet, eliminate harsh self-judgement. It can be character-strengthening to acknowledge shortcomings or weaknesses while at the same time reminding ourselves that everyone makes mistakes.
Yet, acknowledging a regret in the way I just described doesn’t mean you keep hanging out there with it. Next, it is absolutely essential to focus forward, not backward. We can control what happens as we move forward, and can’t control that which has already occurred. Therefore, one of my all-time favorite remedies for moving beyond the angst of deep regret is to make amends to myself around it. By this I mean accepting responsibility for my blunder or missed opportunity, and then telling myself, “Never again will I do ____” — fill in the blank! By making amends in this way, I both own my shortcoming and, at the same time, empower myself with a big promise to correct it in the future. This approach not only creates an opening to move forward, but also is quite correctively forgiving. We are using our insights to avoid subsequent mistakes. By doing so, we improve our ability to reach desired results and opportunities in the future!
When we adaptively use our learnings rather than linger on the problem or excessively blame ourselves, we create powerful strategies for change and better living. If you have fully committed to handling similar circumstances differently, you can much more quickly rebound from the feelings of distress over your error. Your energy shifts from a self-attack to freed-up energy for the present, for a fresh start, for the new day!
And here is a quote if you wish to use it related to this writing:
Ralph Waldo Emerson ~
Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; fight them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.